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Menstrual Cramps

A Common Painful Problem

by FDA Consumer



More than half of menstruating women have cramp-like pain during their periods. The medical term for menstrual pain is dysmenorrhea. Cramps are usually felt in the pelvic area and lower abdomen, but can radiate to the lower back or down the legs.

"Many girls have cramps severe enough to keep them home from school," Rarick says. In fact, according to Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, dysmenorrhea is the most frequent cause of absenteeism from school among younger women. Rarick says women seem to go through phases when cramps are severe, then get better for several years, and then maybe worsen again. She adds that most women find they have less menstrual pain after having children.

Mechanically, cramps are like labor pains. Just as the uterus contracts to open up the cervix (neck of the uterus) and push out a baby, it contracts to expel menstrual blood.

Often, after several years of menstruating or after childbirth, the cervical opening enlarges. The uterus doesn't have to contract as much to discharge the menstrual flow, so there is less cramping.

Menstrual pain may also come from the bleeding process itself. When the uterine lining separates from the wall, it releases chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause blood vessels to narrow, impeding the supply of oxygen to the uterus. Just as the pain of a heart attack comes from insufficient blood to the muscles of the heart, too little blood to the uterine muscle might cause the pain of menstrual cramps.

Menstrual pain can have other causes, although these are rare among teenagers. They include tumors, fallopian tube infection, and endometriosis, a condition in which fragments of the lining of the uterus become embedded elsewhere in the body




Source: Parenting Teens







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